Can I file a Maryland Workers Compensation claim if I am injured on the company premises while playing basketball, softball, pool, or ping pong?

The answer may be yes. Especially if it is on the company premises and sometime during the work day. Even if after hours if the employer is aware of the sporting activity on their premises and approves or encourages it, it is likely to be covered by Maryland Workers Compensation.

Time and place, two overt physical indicia of course-of-employment, are strong factors identifying an activity with the employment. If both [time and place] are present, that is, if the game is played on the premises during a lunch or recreation period, compensability has been seen to be clear. But even if only one of the two elements are present, the case has made a very strong start. Thus, if the game is played outside hours, the fact that it is played on the premises is a heavy, although not necessarily decisive, weight on the side of coverage, and may offset a serious deficiency in some other component of the case.”

The Maryland courts rely on 5 key factors. Sica v. Retail Credit Co. 245 Md. 606, 227 A.2d 33 (1967), The five factors are: (1) The customary nature of the activity, (2) The employer’s encouragement or subsidization of the activity, (3) The extent to which the employer managed or directed the recreational enterprise, (4) The presence of substantial pressure or actual compulsion upon the employee to attend and participate, (5) The fact that the employer expects or receives a benefit from the employee’s participation in the activity., whether by way of improved employer-employee relationships . …through greater efficiency in the performance of the employee’s duties.”

In McNamara v. Town of Hamden, 176 Conn. 547, 398 A.2d 1161 (Conn. 1978), the Supreme Court of Connecticut considered whether an injury sustained while an employee was playing ping-pong on his employer’s premises arose out of and in the course of his employment. Id. The claimant’s work day was from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Id. Employees were in the habit of assembling at their employer’s garage before work about 7:30 a.m. every day.

Several months prior to the date of injury, this group of employees received permission from the employer to purchase a ping-pong table and accessories at the employees’ own expense. At 7:55 a.m., the claimant tripped and fell while playing ping-pong; Given that the employer sanctioned the ping-pong games by regulating permitted playing times, by allowing equipment on the premises, and by setting aside actual work hours in the afternoon for the activity, and that the games occurred regularly on the employer’s premises, the court held that sufficient facts existed upon which to conclude that the games were an incident of the employment.

In Nazario v. New York State Department of Correction, 86 A.D.2d 914, 448 N.Y.S.2d 531 (N.Y. App. Div. 1982), a prison guard’s injury sustained during a softball game was determined to be compensable. The court outlined the relevant factors; the claimant’s team was comprised exclusively of co-employees and was managed by a sergeant at the facility, participation was voluntary, however, the claimant testified that the essential purpose of the team was to promote employee morale. Id.

The claimant further stated that written application to the superintendent of the institution was necessary for approval to use the field. Id. The Nazario court affirmed the lower court’s decision in favor of the claimant, holding that the activity benefited [sic] employer-employee relations.

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